Less than a week later we embark on our first group training exercise. This allows me just enough time to regain a relatively normal walking gait as after my 723 steps, I was severely disabled for two days and nominally disabled for a further three. We meet at my house, all dressed in various forms of hiking gear. Lorraine looks quite professional in her 'skins', while several others (including me) just look frumpy and Cathri (who has been given the all-clear from her doctor), with her blonde hair in pig-tails, just looks like a Swiss goat-herder (not that I've ever actually seen a Swiss goat-herder, or spent much time imagining what one would look like, but I've seen two different versions of Heidi so that makes me something of an expert).
We set off up some very steep hills behind my house (actually, to be totally truthful, Maria and I drove while everyone else walked - Maria on account of having given birth only a few months before and me on account of my dodgy knee which has finally come in somewhat useful). We park the car at the entrance to the national park and wait patiently for the others to join us, then off we go with a spring in our step (especially Maria and I) and a song in our heart (mine is 'I would walk 500 miles' by The Proclaimers but it soon gets boring as I only know the chorus).
We head up the long, winding track with towering eucalypts on either side and then along the ridge where, once past the water tower, the forest becomes considerably more lush, with gorgeous tree-ferns and hollow, echoing birdsong. I shall now skip the part where I nearly got everyone lost and begin again once we reached the uppermost section of the 1000 steps about an hour later. Whereupon Lorraine and Leanne (easily the two fittest in the group) show off by immediately launching themselves down the steps followed, considerably more slowly and reluctantly, by the rest of us. I hop melodramatically down about 150 odd steps, pausing every so often to ensure that my discomfort is noted by all, and then declare my knee can't take anymore. Lyn companionably accompanies me back to the top and we settle down for a good chat. It seems like forever before the others return, and then they insist on resting for a while before we head back.
But the journey home is a breeze. Apart from the fact we all now know the way (so directions aren't left up to me), even conversation is easier when you're going downhill. We pat ourselves on the back (figuratively speaking) for having officially started our training regime and then spend the time chatting about practical considerations for our trek. Like the best type of hiking boots, and those clever backpacks with water bladders that have little sucking nozzles, and whether to wax prior to Kokoda or shave during it. Cathri mutters that if she brings a razor along, it won't be for her legs. We all chuckle appreciatively but I pause to wonder whether she is talking in a suicidal or homicidal vein. Perhaps this might turn out to be Alien vs Predator after all, but this time with a Heidi twist.